Joe Melody, a dairy and purebred suckler farmer from Bunratty, Co. Clare, was named the 2020 National Rural Network Biodiversity Farmer of the Year at this year's FBD Macra na Feirme Young Farmer of the Year Awards on Friday evening (27 November). The National Rural Network Biodiversity Farmer of the Year Award recognises a farmer who is farming sustainably by encouraging biodiversity and protecting the environment.

Joe farms 360 acres in partnership with his father. Around 260 acres of the farm is used for the purebred suckler cows, their calves, and rearing the dairy replacement heifers. Joe is an active participant in the Green Low-carbon Agri-environment Scheme (GLAS), where habitats such as Low Input Permanent Pasture (LIPP) and Traditional Hay Meadows (THM) are preserved. He is passionate about biodiversity and is aware of the importance of maintaining these habitats for birds and wildlife. The farm borders the Shannon estuary with over 3km of riverbank. The riverbank is emersed in reed bed that intersperses with salt marsh, all of which need to be grazed and managed to allow the habitat and its ecosystem to thrive.  The riverbank is carefully managed to encourage winter nesting birds such as wild geese and swans, also a measure within Joe's GLAS plan.

The remaining 100 acres is used for the dairy enterprise. A grassland management plan is in place to ensure cows spend the maximum amount of days at grass throughout the grazing season. A targeted nutrient management plan is in place, and measuring and recording grass growths are actions central to ensuring the milking platform is farmed efficiently and in a sustainable manner. 

Commenting on receiving the Award, Joe Melody said, "I am delighted to receive this award and to be recognised for supporting biodiversity and nature on my farm. I try to farm in conjunction with nature to protect the habitats on my farm. I want to leave this land in the best condition I can so future generations can enjoy the nature and biodiversity it supports. While farming the land, I take pride in embracing my role as a custodian of the land and protecting the environment."

Congratulating the winner, Philip Farrelly of the National Rural Network said, "Throughout the semi-final and final rounds of this competition, the National Rural Network has been engaging with enthusiastic young farmers who have exhibited a passion for farming in a manner that protects and enhances the environment. Joe was awarded the 2020 National Rural Network Biodiversity Farmer of the Year due to his passion, commitment, and enthusiasm for sustainable farming. He is farming in a manner which respects nature, ensuring the land is properly cared for and that the habitats within it are protected and maintained."


“At a time when protection of biodiversity is so important, it is vital that young farmers like Joe be recognised as leaders in this area”, said Macra na Feirme National President Thomas Duffy.